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11 November 2016

Trump wins: what next?

Trump wins: what next?

Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, comments on the task facing Christians following Donald Trump's election as the next President of the United States.

Politics today seems to be experiencing an earthquake, and the election of Donald Trump represents the latest aftershock. Following a bruising and often offensive campaign, the USA now needs to begin a process of healing. Trump's victory speech was more gracious and moderate than much of his campaign, but in the months and years ahead it will take more than words to heal the social divisions that were exploited during the campaigning. Certainly, his attacks on women, the Latino community and other minorities are totally unacceptable, and reflect a crisis of social morality and of public leadership. There's also a need to both moderate and deliver on some of the promises that were made to the electorate. Expectations and trepidation will be equally high.

The social and cultural fault lines exposed during the US election seem to mirror similar rifts that were exposed during the Brexit referendum, and also suggest that there will be more ahead. What's clear is that the secular ideas of left and right don't really work any more, and that there is a broad and deep disenchantment with liberal progressive politics – which just don't reflect the concerns or values of working people and their families. Os Guinness has reflected on the idea that the US is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes, he says: "The American people are as religious as the people of India – the most religious country in the world – but that American leadership is often as secular as Sweden."

The US election result looks set to provide both challenges and opportunities for a plural and civil public square in which we can all live together with our deepest differences.

The response of the Church to these developments must be from a place of peace and confidence in the sovereignty of God. So five things we can do are:

  1. Don't panic, and don't worry. "We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." (Hebrews 12)
  2. Pray. We are called to "pray for all those in authority". (1 Timothy) 
  3. Reconcile and heal. We have a ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5)
  4. Model. The Church has an opportunity and a responsibility to show the world a form of unity in diversity as a witness to Jesus "so that they may believe". (John 17)
  5. Lead. We should provide a positive vision for a post-liberal, plural and civil public square. This means speaking up, getting involved in politics and influencing society as salt and light. Opting out is not an option.

Prayer is not a small thing to do. Regardless of our political persuasion we are called to pray for our rulers, and the President of the United States exercises influence across the globe so we all have a responsibility to pray for him. We should pray for wisdom and for wise counsellors around him as he assembles his governing team and policy priorities. We should also pray for the Church, the statistics suggest that different segments of the Church, often divided along racial lines, voted for different candidates. This is also a place to pray for reconciliation.

But nor is prayer an alternative to action, in a world of increasing fragmentation, and a political environment that exploits division for political gain, this is a chance for the Church to demonstrate a different way. There is an opportunity in the wake of this vote to show that the body of Christ is united, whether Republican or Democrat, whether white, black or Hispanic, this is a chance for us to reach across the divides and show what it means to value one another and to love our neighbour. 

We need peacemakers in our world, people who will stand for justice and mercy, people who are not afraid to speak truth to power. This week is 27 years since the Berlin Wall came down, now is a time to tear down more walls between our communities, not erect them based on how America voted.

I was reminded this week of the words in Psalm 146: "Don't put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever."

This doesn't mean we step away from politics, but it means that as we engage we place our trust in God and not in the promises of men.